petite anglaise

October 22, 2004

make mine a pint

Filed under: french touch — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:26 pm

I’ve got that Friday feeling. A British voice inside my head insists that Fridays are for going out after work and letting a couple of beers turn into a full-on night out (with compulsory junk food finale). Saturday nights are for getting on your glad rags and drinking too much again. Sundays should be spent nursing multiple hangovers and indulging in a curative cholestorol fest of English breakfast.

None of the above really work in Paris. First things first, the curative breakfast (because if you have been paying attention, you can’t fail to have noticed that I’m somewhat food-obsessed): what the French call ‘bacon’ is thinly cut round pieces of bacony ham which are not intended for cooking. And you can’t really make a good fry up with lardons (cubes of bacon). So a fry-up as an antidote to alcohol overindulgence is out.

As for Friday drinking with your work colleagues, there appears to be an unwritten rule of social etiquette in this country: thou shalt not mix thy social life with thy work life. I find this is a real pity, because alcohol (even in moderation) can break down so many barriers, and seeing your co-workers socially gives you a chance to get to know them as people. But unless there is an official company pot to celebrate someone’s promotion or give them a send off, it’s pretty hard to get the French involved in any after work drinking. This is one of the reasons why most of my friends tend to be anglo-saxons, with the odd French alcoholic thrown in.

Now for the drinking part. Drinking is done differently in France. Most people don’t go out drinking with the sole aim of getting drunk. You might go to a bar for a couple of drinks and a chat, but as drinks are served at your table, you will drink less whether you like it or not as it’s impossible to get the skinny, aloof and overworked waitresses’ attention. Drinks are prohibitively expensive in bars and restaurants, which doesn’t help matters. You do tend to take your time over 25cl of lager when it has cost you four euros. In any event you are unlikely to spend a whole evening with French people just drinking. It is far more likely that you’ll have an apéro together before a meal, or a drink afterwards.

Turning to the glad rags, most of the bars I frequent(ed) are full of people dressed very casually. Before you don that cheeky little number from Miss Selfridge which shows swathes of bare flesh, note that the sleazy single men propping up the bar will treat you as if you have a ‘desperate to get laid’ sticker on your forehead and you will spend the evening fighting off their unwelcome advances (“tu as des beaux yeux, tu sais..”). Safer to stick with something understated, preferably in black.

Finally, if you are female then you should be aware that drinking to excess is considered very unfeminine in this country. I have, on occasion, mostly in situations where alcohol was flowing freely at a party in someone’s apartment, made something of a spectacle of myself by drinking like an English person and getting what I would describe as ‘moderately lairy’. The Frog promptly marched me off the premises and still refers to such episodes several years later. I’m not saying this is fair or right (it’s blatant sexism and makes my blood boil), but like it or not, that is the way things are here.

So, if I can’t shake this Friday feeling, I’ll have no option but to hop on a Eurostar after work. Anyone fancy a couple of pints?


  1. Oh, petite, you bring back fond memories of when I first came to France and went into an “American bar” (which was about as American as Johnny Halliday) with some Frog acquaintances who thought I would feel more at home there (I’m British).
    Faux Pas #1: Since everyone else sat at the table, I assumed it was my round and went to the bar. The barfrog sent me to my table with an icy “on va venir”.
    Faux Pas:#2: When the drinks *finally* arrived, one hour after we had, I proceeded to drink as was my wont, i.e. quickly. I noticed the stunned silence about halfway down my glass and looked at the other’s drinks to see that they were practically untouched, and that everyone was staring at me aghast, clearly thinking “Oh my God, she’s an alcoholic”. I didn’t drink another drop, such was my shame.
    My Mr Grenouille has NEVER seen me drunk (for precisely the reasons you describe so well) and we’ve been together 6 years- not bad for an ex beer monster, if I say so myself.

    Comment by Suziboo — October 22, 2004 @ 12:50 pm

  2. my goodness! I think you’re hanging out with the wrong bunch of french people! It’s the land of alcoholics, just you have to get into somebody’s house, or just go round with a bunch of friends. I can’t explain it, but I have no problems getting trashed in paris. The idea of open bar exists at select parties, and if not, there’s a couple of bars that feature accomodating prices for beers. However, different: there’s pub culture, and bar culture. Never the twain shall meet.

    and my Mr. Frog doesn’t always participate in my shenanigans but he doesn’t disapprove.

    On a different note, yes the English tend to show a lot of skin on their pub crawls. I remember a really sad vis ma vie where this french guy got carted off to London and proceeded to be snotty about what the poor girl was wearing. It was all skin tight and diving necklines. I understand that’s what you gals like to do…but here, I have to say I prefer the cute little french girl sweaters, or tops, all meant to be rather elegant rather than tarty.

    but, chacun son gout.

    Comment by nardac — October 22, 2004 @ 1:03 pm

  3. I completely agree with PetiteAnglaise. I dunno how you can cope there. Oh yes, I know why I’m living in London and not in Paris. My ex GF (who was a True British Babe) hated that. Being treated of slut because she had a skirt, being treated of alcoholic for ordering Tequila for herself, etc…

    Comment by Chninkel — October 22, 2004 @ 2:19 pm

  4. While I guess we’re pretty lucky that we tend to socialize quite a bit with my hubby’s colleages (it seems the rules are different if you’re a teacher), I am lamenting the fact that I have lots of pretty skirts I never get to wear anymore. One night before meeting the crew, I was going to wear a skirt but could’t find any tights, so I wore slacks instead. Good thing I did – I would’ve felt even more out of place if I had. I see I’m gonna need more than the two pairs of casual pants I currently own…

    Comment by ViVi — October 22, 2004 @ 2:41 pm

  5. Ah Petite, this is lovely. I remember being astonished when I first got to Engerland and people were unashamedly talking about “going drinking”. The French drink a hell of a lot (I’ve got a fair few closet alcoholics in my family), but they just aren’t as open as the Brits about it, and they do it mainly at home (because of the prohibitive prices in cafés).

    Tell you what, I’ve got that Friday feeling too and in fact, I’m off soon to meet up with a friend to celebrate the end of the week. I’ll think of you when I’m in the pub clutching that lovely Friday pint :mrgreen:

    Comment by céline — October 22, 2004 @ 4:07 pm

  6. In the heart of France there exists a place known to the gods. So a good idea might be a quick trip to the west of Brittany – where they have got things “well sorted” – or a “well sortie” to a local LeClerc. There’s little wine to be had in Brittany – except for the dry white muscadet from the Loire estuary region (and that’s not the heart of Brittany – they all speak French there). What the Bretons do have is a marvellously resurgent beer industry – and most of it is delicious: Cervoise Lancelot, Britt, Coreff, Blanche Hermine, Bonnets Rouge, Telenn Du and more besides. Then there is of course the most delectable cider (Cidre de Cornouaille [sounds like Cornwall], which is better than the Normandy cider and light years ahead of all but the best British cider and which can be obtained from most supermarkets in the north (Lille, Dunkirk, etc.) Yes, that was me you saw carting one hundred and fifty bottles of cider to my car in Lille last year. They produce their own drinkable whisky, and the sound of bagpipes one hears is not the result of excessive alcohol consumption, its the sound of Bretons partying. If you like that sort of thing, as I do, then you have this invigorating mix of Scots, Irish, Welsh, west country type stuff infused with the undeniable beauty of the French Atlantic coastal landscape, with subtle references to the pre-Saxon flair of the Britons who of course nearly all pushed off to France, taking their Arthurian mythology with them. Try drinking there, you might just love it.

    And speaking of the French and alcohol, I have never ever during the course of my life in Britain and Holland (where I have spent 98% of my life) been offered self-distilled eau de vie, but in France where I only spent several months in total, I have had it three times. Does this mean I’m a popular type of regular guy, or does it mean that the French authorities are prone to allow this type of thing due to its popularity. It’s something we hear little of otherwise, but I suspect/hope they are keen home distillers.

    None of this, of course, addresses the sartorial issues you mentioned above. :lol:

    Comment by Liam — October 22, 2004 @ 4:23 pm

  7. petite, I’ll come out for a couple of pints with you… I’ll be there in a couple of hours (I wish)

    Sounds like you need to find nardac’s friends.

    But, I do think NOT going out getting pissed with one’s work mates is quite a good idea… speaking as someone who… well… I ain’t saying another word!

    Comment by vitriolica — October 22, 2004 @ 4:32 pm

  8. If you think alcohol prices in Paris are extortionate try Scandinavia…to afford a round you need to re-mortgage your house first ;)

    Comment by Chameleon — October 22, 2004 @ 4:53 pm

  9. come on over Sunday – it’s a pound a pint where I sup:razz:

    Comment by birdman — October 22, 2004 @ 8:40 pm

  10. I agree drinks are expensive in Paris. One Mexican place I went to with some women friends cost us 70 euro for a pitcher of margaritas. They were delicious…

    Comment by mraparis — October 22, 2004 @ 9:54 pm

  11. ahhhh…I think I understand the problem. If you drink mixed drinks it’s stupid expensive. If you drink wine, it’s more reasonable. Anyways, i stay away from cafes for drinking.

    It’s true, my friends and I, we tend to go first to someone’s place and get the party started, then move out into parties and such. I know if I’m going to the Pulp and such, I usually pack a little flask just for fun. And the last time I was at the PopIn I met up with a bunch of people who were running at wicked tab and let me in. Sigh, that’s the problem with Paris…it’s all smoozing and scamming.

    but on a sad note, tonight I missed out on one of the biggest free drinks parties of the season, the balle jaune at the champs elysees. The Ricard is flowing like water right now over there! It’s invite only and my invitation got stuck in the north. oh well. better luck next time.

    you know the cheri bar, which is at belleville close to colonel fabien, has cheap drinks. as does the zorba.

    Comment by nardac — October 22, 2004 @ 11:53 pm

  12. Me me me! I’m up for cyber-pints! There is so little to drink here that I fear when I show up for my friends’ wedding in a few weeks I will get pissed on the smell of a pint.

    Drinking with work colleagues only loosens your tongue so that you actually tell them what a shower of tossers you think they are instead of thinking it. Or is that just me?

    Comment by Claypot — October 23, 2004 @ 8:16 am

  13. *runs in dishevelled and breathless*

    Am i too late for the drinks?

    Comment by Watski — October 23, 2004 @ 1:05 pm

  14. nardac – Ooh Pulp – I used to go there sometimes for electro nights…

    Wicked music and lots of girls smooching, which I found rather sensual actually. (NB to non Parisians – they have ladies only nights too)

    Comment by petite — October 23, 2004 @ 1:17 pm

  15. My ex-Mr-Frog was most startled to see an English girl drinking a pint when he was over here.

    Most of the drinking I saw in France was in people’s homes, with a meal. We would go out to a bar for an apéro or after the meal, but wouldn’t spend the whole night in a bar or bars.

    Early on in my French career, I went out for an evening and ordered wine in a bar – the waiter almost split his sides… so many rules in France *sigh*

    What really used to concern me in France was the amount of drinking and driving which went on

    Comment by witho — October 23, 2004 @ 6:36 pm

  16. I’m with you on that one witho – but I think it deserves a whole post sometime….

    Comment by petite — October 23, 2004 @ 6:44 pm

  17. A couple of pints with you any time p a, no problem.

    The thing that I always note with socialising in France is that there’s often a much wider age range across a group of friends going out for the night than over here (except in Newcastle of course – ‘people think we’re sisters’).

    Ecoutez et repetez (I’m cunnilingual y’know).

    Comment by backroads — October 23, 2004 @ 9:22 pm

  18. he he

    backroads you have have the dubious honour of having been caught in the comments spam filter. Must have been the C word. Naughty boy.

    Comment by petite — October 23, 2004 @ 11:44 pm

  19. No pub and no fish and chip supper after…

    Comment by mellowyellow — October 24, 2004 @ 8:32 pm

  20. oh my goodness, i LOVE your blog, it makes me feel sooooooooooooo homesick :D Do you know Albion?

    Comment by miss lulu — October 24, 2004 @ 11:44 pm

  21. thank you lulu

    albion is in my ‘frogs abroad’ links to the right. as are you. hope you don’t object to me calling you a frog!

    Comment by petite — October 25, 2004 @ 9:24 am

  22. Ribbit Ribbit! :mrgreen:

    Comment by Chninkel — October 25, 2004 @ 10:52 am

  23. croa croa :smile:

    Comment by miss lulu — October 25, 2004 @ 1:26 pm

  24. Here I was thinking that I had a distorted perception of France – it astounds me that there is such a division between work and social life here! I would adore doing the Friday night drinks thing with some of my collegues, but it’s virtually unheard of. I think it can depend on the place of employ, but it seems to be a general rule here not to mix work and play.
    I also was shocked at the attitude towards women drinking and the amount that is drunk over dinner, with friends, in restaurants and bars etc. Particularly in comparison to Australia! I tend to play up to it though, and love to horrify my boss by telling him that I can’t wait to get home to have a vodka and orange. LOL.
    My younger sister came over to France, knowing all of this, and took it upon herself shock the daylights out of everyone. My parents in law thought her behaviour was somewhat amusing, but then when they visited Australia, they were surprised to realise that drinking excessively with friends/family was not so unusual.
    Decorum out the window! Hand me another Stoli!
    My Frog is in training. He likes to defy the social norm as well ;)
    Anyway, Nice blog !

    Comment by Katia — October 25, 2004 @ 7:36 pm

  25. First encounter with this blog
    This post is very funny as for a french guy (which I am), your point of view is exactly what we think english women might think.
    Always surprising to me to see picadilly at 2am on week ends. filled with drunk women

    Comment by JoeyCoco — October 26, 2004 @ 10:41 am

  26. Working for the man
    Yesterday I was chatting to my mum (oh how I love cheap overseas phone calls!) about her relationships with the people at work. It saddened me a little, as it highlighted how much of an enormous difference there is between…

    Trackback by An Aussie Lass, a Frenchman and a Burmese — November 14, 2004 @ 9:06 am

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